Subjective Reward Value of Visual Sexual Stimuli Is Coded in Human Striatum and Orbitofrontal Cortex


Klein, Sanja; Kruse, Onno; Markert, Charlotte; Tapia León, Isabell; Strahler, Jana; and Stark, Rudolf


2020 in Behavioural Brain Research

  • Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), this neuroscientific study shows the connections between problematic pornography consumption and preference toward specific and highly-arousing content, indicating possible tolerance development.
Human neuroimaging research suggests the existence of one core network for the subjective valuation of rewards, including the striatum and orbitofrontal cortex. However, there is little research on the neural representation of subjective reward values of visual sexual stimuli (VSS) and on the role of these subjective valuations in the development of related addictive behaviors. Here, we investigate how neural reactivity to VSS is connected to individual preference using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). During... READ FULL ABSTRACT
  • "We not only found an association of NAcc and caudate activity with sexual arousal ratings during VSS viewing but the strength of this association was greater when the subject reported more PPU. The result supports the hypothesis, that incentive value responses in NAcc and caudate differentiate more strongly between differently preferred stimuli, the more a subject experiences PPU. This extends past studies, where PPU has been linked to a higher striatal response to VSS as compared to a control or non-preferred condition."
  • "Given these results can be replicated, they may have important clinical implications. Increased differentiation of incentive value signals might be connected to an increase in time spent searching for highly stimulating material, which later leads to issues in personal or professional life and suffering because of this behavior. Regarding possible tolerance development, it would be interesting if the differences between values got larger over time, requiring the search for and use of more and more highly preferred VSS to obtain the same reward. So far, however, it remains unknown whether this effect is precursor or result of the addictive behavior."